First diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, Venecia fought the battle and the disease only for it to return for a second time, 5 years later. Better prepared, more knowledgeable, and naming the disease CRAP (thanks to a childhood friend’s student) this time around, she fought an even tougher fight for her second victory.
In 2012, she was diagnosed a third time with cancer and a fourth time in 2013. Venecia approached these diagnoses with the same positive attitude and self-determination she always had. Venecia came out on top with a story to tell of her struggles. She credited her success to her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and to her sense of humor, family, friends, and special support from the reunion with childhood friends, the YaYa’s. Venecia wrote a book titled “I have to Get Some Things Off My Chest” and has been republished by Bookmark Publishers.
In August 2014, Venecia discovered she had cancer for the fifth time and it had metastasized to her liver, spine and brain. She made several speaking engagements about her battle and through her testimony was able to give hope and inspiration to many. Venecia shared her story with churches, civic groups, and at various women’s conferences until November 2014.
Venecia resided in Piedmont, Alabama with her husband of 24 years, Curtis, and their two children, Nathan and Chelsea.
Veneica had a hysterectomy in 2005 and was put on hormone therapy. In February 2006, she noticed a knot in her left breast that was extremely painful. She'd always heard that if something like that hurt, it would probably be a cyst. "That's why I wasnt that concerned about it," she said. "I thought it was a cyst. I went to see my doctor in April 2006 and had a mammogram. It was a tumor."
After she had the biopsy, which was the day before her 42nd birthday, she was told the cancer was extremely aggressive and had already spread to her lymph nodes. The medical term for cancer was called "infiltrating ductular carcinoma." Venecia had a mastectomy performed on her left breast. She wanted one on her right breast but on the advice of her surgeon she did not.
Most of 2006 was spent taking chemotherapy and radiation. That was followed with medication for the next five years to help prevent a recurrence, along with follow up visits to the doctor every three months. “I had all my scans done once a year and then almost exactly five years later in 2011, I felt a knot in my right breast,” said Venecia. “I went immediately and had it checked. It was cancer, so I had to have another mastectomy. Because I had waited the first time, it had gotten in my lymph glands. Had I gone earlier, it probably would not have, so I had this mastectomy right away.”
Venecia elected to take chemotherapy this time. She received one treatment a month for six months and was declared cancer free. “I had prayed and asked God what I was supposed to be doing,” said Venecia. “I knew you don’t just go through cancer twice like I did and still be here. God told me to write a book and speak about my experience.” So, she began writing her book. The name of it came easily – “I Have to Get Some Things Off My Chest.” There were several things Venecia did for others after her diagnosis with cancer. She encouraged everyone to find laughter in every situation, to live each moment to the fullest, and in May 2013 she formed Venecia's Foundation to help cancer victims.
In September 2012 she felt something in her chest wall. It was another tumor. Doctors took it out, and she spent the fall taking 40 radiation treatments.
In January 2013 two small spots were found on her right lower lung. “They were very small and scans had to be run back to back every three months,” said Venecia. “They told me it was more dangerous to go in and take them out than to start chemo, so I started chemo in February. Next the middle lobe of her right lung collapsed, so she had to stop chemo for a month to let her lung heal.” When Venecia went back to her oncologist in April 2013, it was time for more chest scans. The chemotherapy was taking such a toll on her, she asked her oncologist to have her chest scanned before she had any more treatments. The spots on her lung were gone, so she told the oncologist she wasn’t doing any more chemotherapy. For the fourth time, she was cancer free.
In August 2014, Venecia was diagnosed with liver, bone and brain cancer. She was fighting her toughest battle yet. She referred to it as her “Goliath.” Venecia continued speaking at various places. She jokingly told her family on the way to one of the engagements that she knew how Elvis felt when he said that "it's hard to live up to an image." Venecia approached the diagnosis with ther same faith and sense of humor once again. “Cancer isn’t funny, but when you can laugh when you have it, it helps you and your family get through it,” said Venecia. “Laughter changes your whole attitude. In 2006 when I was first diagnosed, my children were 10 and 11. They saw me laughing a lot and not getting depressed and upset. Basically, all their teenage life, I’ve been dealing with cancer.”
During the nine years Venecia faced cancer and the treatments that were a part of the disease, she discovered that many research organizations were paying large salaries to people, all in the name of finding a cure. “I hope they’re going to fine a cure, but personally, I don’t feel like they do enough for the patients and their families,” she said. That’s why she formed Venecia’s Foundation, an incorporated, non-profit organization. Its purpose is to provide aid, support and comfort to cancer patients and their families. “I want to make sure all chemo rooms have portable DVD players,” said Venecia. “Sometimes people are there from four to six hours, and I want them to be able to watch funny movies if they want to. I want to give care packages to the patients and gas cards to help them out financially. I want to brighten their day a little bit and I can do this by sharing my faith and love with them.”
The book has a lot of humor in it, said Venecia. “It’s all about my journey and how God uses foolish things to confound the wise. If you think about it, God used a little boy to kill a giant.” “When God says it’s time for me to go to heaven, I don’t want anyone saying cancer took my life,” she said. “I don’t want cancer to get credited for my death. I want people to say that I finished with what God meant for me to do.”
Venecia went home to be with Jesus on April 23, 2015.